State Roundup: Short, melancholy session ends; emergency COVID-19 bill passes

State Roundup: Short, melancholy session ends; emergency COVID-19 bill passes

The State House in Annapolis at sunset. ( file photo)

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GENERAL ASSEMBLY ENDS SHORT SESSION: For the first time since the Civil War, Maryland lawmakers cut short their annual session on Wednesday after passing sweeping reforms to education, a plan to rebuild  Pimlico Race Course and emergency legislation to address the spread of the coronavirus, Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood report in the Sun. The article is topped by video interviews with House Speaker Adrienne Jones, House Minority Leader Nic Kipke and House Majority Leader Eric Luedtke.

  • Working with a skeleton crew, in conditions that defied social distancing guidelines, Maryland’s 188 lawmakers passed about 500 bills in a matter of days this week and adjourned nearly three weeks early while the Maryland National Guard was stationed outside, Erin Cox Ovetta Wiggins and Rachel Chason of the Post report.
  • The legislature also passed emergency legislation to provide hundreds of millions of dollars for the governor to use to respond to the coronavirus outbreak, to pay for testing and to provide for unemployment benefits, Bryan Sears of the Daily Record reports.
  • The House and Senate adjourned indefinitely at 5 p.m. EDT from chambers barren of well-wishers, family members or the general public, after a session defined by Kirwan and the coronavirus, Danielle Gaines, Bruce DePuyt and Hannah Gaskill write for Maryland Matters.

WHAT ARE THE MAJOR BILLS THAT PASSED? The Maryland General Assembly passed more than 650 bills in a three-day sprint as lawmakers rushed to adjourn their legislative session nearly three weeks early because of the coronavirus pandemic. The Sun’s Luke Broadwater and Pamela Wood list the most significant.

  • After three years of policy-making and debate, an education reform plan that has been hailed by Democratic leaders as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to overhaul outdated education policies and correct inequities of the past will be sent to the governor’s desk, Danielle Gaines and Hannah Gaskell of Maryland Matters report.
  • Maryland voters will decide in November whether to legalize gambling on sporting events. On Wednesday, the final day of this year’s truncated legislative session, the General Assembly approved a measure placing a referendum on the fall ballot, writes Bruce DePuyt for Maryland Matters.

TAXPAYERS GET 3-MONTH REPRIEVE: Regina Holmes of MarylandReporter writes that state Comptroller Peter Franchot is giving Maryland residents and businesses a three-month extension to pay their state taxes. State tax payments for 2019 made by July 15 will occur no interest or penalty for lateness, he said in a statement his office released late Tuesday.

  • The extension, which matches the new federal income tax schedule, applies to individuals and businesses, Jeff Barker of the Sun reports.
  • The decision comes as Maryland, and most of the country, is practicing extreme social distancing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The impact on the food service, entertainment, event and hospitality industries and their employees has been severe, Carley Milligan of the Baltimore Business Journal reports.

Sen. Mike Miller (D-Calvert) gives a floor speech Thursday in Annapolis about the need to combat violent crime in Baltimore City. (Bryan Renbaum/

MELANCHOLY LAST DAY: On the final day of the 2020 Maryland General Assembly legislative session — which the global outbreak of the coronavirus cut short — Senate President Bill Ferguson expressed regret that his predecessor — Senate President Emeritus Mike Miller, who is battling prostate cancer — was unable to attend the proceedings, Bryan Renbaum of MarylandReporter writes.

  • While last year’s General Assembly ended on a somber note with the passing of House Speaker Mike Busch, this year’s legislative session ended with a sense of urgency. The governor did not give his usual remarks after the gavels fell; there were no balloons drifting from the galleries and no post-session parties, Tamela Baker reports in the Hagerstown Herald Mail.

HOGAN CRIME PACKAGE TURNED BACK: Gov. Larry Hogan’s effort to enact mandatory minimum prison terms for repeat gun offenders and to discourage judges from handing down reduced sentences was rebuffed during an abbreviated General Assembly session, thanks to the Democratic-led legislature’s opposition to mandated punishments and diminished judicial discretion — even as homicides continue at  brisk pace in Baltimore, writes Steve Lash in the Daily Record.

COMMITTEE CHAIR STRIPPED OF POST AFTER PROTESTING VOTE: Retribution came swiftly and publicly for a Democrat member of the House of Delegates and committee chairwoman Wednesday following a heated vote on a proposal to give the General Assembly more power over the state budget, Josh Kurtz reports for Maryland Matters.

WIDER VOTE BY MAIL SOUGHT: Several groups advocating for election rights delivered a letter to Gov. Larry Hogan on Wednesday urging him to offer widespread voting by mail in the June primary and to establish a voting rights task force, Emily Opilo writes in the Sun.

PG MAN FIRST MARYLANDER TO DIE OF COVID-19: A Prince George’s County man in his 60s became Maryland’s first resident to die of the novel coronavirus, McKenna Oxenden reports in the Sun. He acquired the illness through community transmission and had underlying health problems.

OPINION: CONTINUE TEACHING: It’s the 21st century. Schools can keep teaching thanks to the internet, even when facilities are shuttered. At a minimum, teachers should continue their lesson plans by uploading daily lectures to YouTube and emailing homework, Leonard John opines for MarylandReporter.

Dr. Joshua Sharfstein

MORE RESEARCH ON COVID-19: Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health are finding out more about the novel coronavirus. The Sun adapts this Q&A from a webcast moderated by Dr. Joshua Sharfstein that includes Andy Pekosz, professor of molecular microbiology and immunology, and Caitlin Rivers, senior scholar in the Center for Health Security.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN TO CENSUS? CASA is among the advocacy groups that have worked with state and local officials in Maryland to ensure that historically hard-to-count populations — which include immigrants, black residents and young children — are accurately tallied in the 2020 Census. But with the pandemic, it’s up in the air what will become of those months of planning, Alison Knezevich of the Sun reports.

MORE COVID-19 TESTING SITES: While drive-through COVID-19 testing sites are growing in numbers, they quickly find themselves being overwhelmed with clients, reports Morgan Eichensehr for the Baltimore Business Journal.

  • Frederick Health Hospital has started offering drive-through testing for COVID-19. The hospital started on Wednesday with a soft launch for the testing, reports Heather Mongilio for the Frederick News Post.

STATE OKs MERCY’S EMERGENCY EXPANSION: Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore has received emergency approval to build a $12.5 million addition to its main inpatient facility to add 32 new beds as demand surges amid the coronavirus pandemic, Jessica Iannetta reports for the Baltimore Business Journal.

About The Author

Cynthia Prairie

Contributing Editor Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor since 1979, when she began working at The Raleigh Times. Since then, she has worked for The Baltimore News American, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Prince George’s Journal and Baltimore County newspapers in the Patuxent Publishing chain, including overseeing The Jeffersonian when it was a two-day a week business publication. Cynthia has won numerous state awards, including the Maryland State Bar Association’s Gavel Award. Besides compiling and editing the daily State Roundup, she runs her own online newspaper, The Chester Telegraph. If you have additional questions or comments contact Cynthia at:

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